4 Essentials of Customer Engagement

“Our mission is to help small businesses do business,” Audrey Hendley, SVP, new customer acquisition and prospect engagement for American Express, stated bluntly. “Small business success is our success.”

To be successful, Hendley said during her keynote at Customer Engagement World 2014, she and her team need to know who the global services company’s small business customers are, where they spend their time, what they care about, and who their influencers are. Not surprisingly, Hendley’s team uses data to gain that understanding and then act accordingly. They use modeling and machine learning, for example, to know the best time to call prospects; they use an assortment of customer data to predict triggers and take proactive action rather than react to triggers once they’ve occurred. “What’s really impactful to use are behavioral triggers,” she said.

Most important, Hendley said, is to use data to treat customers as one person across channels; not as a different person in each channel. This helps American Express stay true to its brand values and honor what customers are looking for, she said.

Hendley share her four essentials for customer engagement:

1. Know your prospects.

Gather customer input and insight from as many sources as are available through a comprehensive voice-of-the-customer program. Sources should go beyond surveys (but use them!) to include such information as behavioral data and social interactions. Use the information gathered to identify what to offer and how. By tracking social conversations, for instance, Hendley’s team learned that customers’ reaction to the rejection experience when denied a credit card is just as impactful as their reaction to the acceptance experience when awarded one. This changed how the team approaches interactions with rejected customers, knowing that they may well be offered a card at a future date when they would be accepted.

2. Be where customers and prospects are.

Prospective customers won’t always find you; you need to be where they are. This means driving your message online, for example, far beyond your website to social and partner sites; but also owning where and when it shows up to the extent that’s manageable. Recently, for example, American Express partnered with such merchants as Dunkin’ Donuts to send real-time geo-targeted SMS offers to American Express customers. By sending the texts itself, American Express controls the messaging to its customers.

3. Say the right thing…

The fact is, Hendley points out, you’re not in your customers’ head space. For American Express, she said, that means its customers don’t wake up and think, “I need a credit card.” Instead, it’s, “I want to grow my business” or “I need access to capital.” Once you understand customers’ motivations you can communicate how you can help customers achieve their goals, thus make yourself indispensible to them. Hendley cited as an example Benjamin Moore’s Color Capture app that allows customer not only to match paint colors with, say, furniture or bedding, but also use the app to order paint that can be picked up at a retailer partner or delivered to the customer’s door.

4. …At the right time.

One you know where your customers and prospects are, how do show up before they know they need you? Smart retargeting is one way, Hendley said. She pointed out the effectiveness of Delta Airlines’ follow up with customers who start but don’t complete the booking process as one example. Hendley also recommended using behavioral cues such as what web pages customers and prospects visit or the types of content they read or download to know when to contact those prospective buyers and with what messaging.

“Customers expect you to know them, but prospects do, too,” Hendley asserted, adding that if you have an existing relationship with them in another area of your business they expect you to know that and interact accordingly.

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